Thank You For Smoking (Fox Searchlight, R)

Of course, it should go without saying that this film should appeal to both smokers and vehement nonsmokers, as the real draw here is the pitch-perfect satire, a holdover from the film’s source material, the novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley, adapted for the screen by Reitman (yes, Jason is Ivan’s son).

 

 

I’ve loved Aaron Eckhart ever since his breakout film, Neil LaBute’s In the Company of Men, but most directors don’t know how to use his alpha-male good looks and smarmy charm to their benefit. Sure, LaBute has since cast him in smaller roles to great success, but we Eckhart fans have been waiting a while for a true Eckhart vehicle to come along. Finally, in Jason Reitman’s Thank You for Smoking, our wait is over.

Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, a spin doctor for the big tobacco companies who is a fast thinker, fast talker, and genius debater (at one point, he tells us via voiceover that, “If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong”). Along the way, Naylor has to appear in court, lobby politicians, and talk a film executive into making his films’ characters smoke, all in an effort to help alleviate (if not outright eradicate) the growing distaste for smoking and smokers in American culture. His friends include Polly Bailey (A History of Violence’s Maria Bello), who holds the liquor equivalent of Naylor’s job, and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner), the firearm advocate, who collectively call themselves the Mod Squad, with “mod” being an acronym for “merchants of death.” In addition to his normal duties in the tobacco campaign, Naylor has to appear to be a good role model for his 12-year-old son Joey (Cameron Bright), and also woo a young, pretty reporter (Katie Holmes) who wants to do a piece on him in a nationally distributed newspaper.

Of course, it should go without saying that this film should appeal to both smokers and vehement nonsmokers, as the real draw here is the pitch-perfect satire, a holdover from the film’s source material, the novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley, adapted for the screen by Reitman (yes, Jason is Ivan’s son). But still, film is a collaborative medium, and Thank You for Smoking is the type of film that would fail miserably had there been one weak link in the production—which, thankfully, there isn’t. Regardless, the finished product almost exclusively rides on Eckhart’s shoulders, who has to aim his performance at the fine line between charisma and pure evil—which, as fans of In the Company of Men know, is his specialty. Even so, if there was ever any doubt of his abilities, all will be won over when he explains to Rob Lowe’s film executive, “We don’t sell Tic Tacs, we sell cigarettes. And they’re cool, available, and addictive. The job is almost done for us.”

Official Site

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